Global Land Temperatures Warmest Ever in January, April

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

GENEVA, Switzerland, August 8, 2007 (ENS) - Global land surface temperatures for January and April will likely be ranked as the warmest since recordkeeping began in 1880, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization reported Tuesday.

'Weather and climate are marked by record extremes in many regions across the world since January 2007,' the WMO said.

The global weather agency is working with its 188 national member governments and other UN partners to set up a multi-hazard early warning system to tackle the extremes brought on by climate change, such as violent storms, floods and heatwaves.

'They are putting in place sustainable observation systems needed for monitoring and assessing the impacts of climate change and determining the adaptation priorities for the most vulnerable countries,' the WMO said in its update.

Global temperatures were 1.89°Celsius (3.4°Fahrenheit) warmer than average for January and 1.37°C (2.46°F) warmer than average for April.

The agency noted that the most recent assessment report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the warming of the climate system was 'unequivocal' and most likely due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.

Among the latest extremes, the WMO cited four monsoon depressions, double the normal number, which caused heavy floods in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, killing more than 500 people, displacing over 10 million others and destroying vast areas of croplands, livestock and property.

A series of huge swells with waves more than 20 feet high swamped 68 islands in the Indian Ocean island nation of Maldives in May.

The first cyclone ever documented in the Arabian Sea struck Oman and Iran in early June.

Other extremes included a powerful storm system in much of northern Europe in January; and in England and Wales the period from May to July was the wettest since recordkeeping began in 1766.

Elsewhere in Europe, extreme record-breaking heat waves hit southeastern Europe in June and July; and a heat wave swept across western and central Russia in May, breaking several records.

'Recognizing the severe health impacts of heat waves, the WMO and the World Health Organization are at an advanced stage of preparing a guidance on the implementation of Heat Health Early Warning Systems,' the agency said.

In the southern hemisphere, an unusually cold southern winter brought winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to various parts of South America in July.

In June, South Africa experienced its first major snowfall since 1981.

In the northern hemisphere, by contrast, many European countries had their warmest January on record.

The Netherlands reported the highest temperature since measurements were first taken in 1706, averaging about 7.1°C (44.78°F).

This temperature is 2.8°C (5°F) above the 1961-1990 average.

In Germany, the temperatures in January soared even higher, averaging 4.6°C (8.2°F) above the 1961-1990 average.

An increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970 has also been observed.

Climate change could lead to potential food shortages and increase the risk of hunger in developing countries, warns the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Director-General Jacques Diouf said in a speech in Chennai, India Tuesday that industrialized countries could see an increase in their crop yields.

'Crop yield potential is likely to increase at higher latitudes for global average temperature increases of up to 1 to 3°C (1.8 to 5.4°F) depending on the crop, and then decrease beyond that,” he told delegates to the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation Conference.

'On the contrary, at lower latitudes, especially in the seasonally dry tropics, crop yield potential is likely to decline for even small global temperature rises, which would increase the risk of hunger,” Diouf noted.

Record flooding this year is leaving millions hungry. The UN World Food Programme began this week to distribute food to flood victims in South Asia where some 25 million people have been affected by devastating monsoon rains, some of the worst in recent years.

Huge areas of land are under water in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, and the majority of people affected are those who are the poorest and least able to cope.

Large water masses and soaring temperatures can lead to an outbreak of diseases which puts the health and nutrition of children and vulnerable people at risk.

At low latitudes, more frequent droughts and floods would decrease local production said Diouf. 'Rain-fed agriculture in marginal areas in semi-arid and sub-humid regions is mostly at risk.'

He warned that India stands to lose 125 million tons of its rain-fed cereal production, close to 20 percent of its total production.

He stressed that advances in science and technology will be paramount in the field of agricultural production in the next three decades.

'I cannot sufficiently underline the need to also address the needs of resource poor farmers in rain-fed areas and on marginal lands,” Dr. Diouf said.

'Ensuring that new biotechnologies help achieve this goal,' he said, 'in full awareness of biosafety, socio-economic and ethical concerns associated with the use of some of these technologies remains a challenge for the entire scientific community.'

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